What does not change is the will to change
By Toh Hsien Min
Maybe it's a stage that we all go through, and my generation is going through it at the moment, but 2005 has seemed to be such a year of change. More of my close friends have gone through or are going through some kind of a transition this year than not: many have switched jobs, some have even switched countries, and as for weddings - let's just say wedding season isn't over yet and I've already given out more in red packets than in any preceding year.
Well, I've finally effected a little change of my own. I had been wondering for some time if the property sector was where I wanted to be. Having founded a serviced office start-up with a colleague and brought it to profitability during the lean years for commercial property in Singapore, I knew I could make a living in property for as long as I wanted... but I wasn't sure it was what I wanted. I had seen first-hand how structuring a business with carefully designed financial models could, coupled with competent execution, prove to be a source of business advantage. Even though this was not completely new to me - I had turned around the middle common room cellar while I was in college by designing a new pricing mechanism - it was simply on a different scale, and maybe what I had started to itch for was a challenge on a different scale again, where I could spend much more time on thinking rather than on operations. It was with this in mind that I left my previous job. I've been surprised since by the number of people who have expressed how risky they feel leaving a job without having the next one in hand is, as I had taken quite the opposite tack: I had to expose myself to risk again. I had to burn the bridge in order to give myself the impetus to successfully make the transition.
Nevertheless, I took a two-month break from work, in order to recharge, write, and put together a list of the people and firms to write to in the target industry. I never got to use this list. This was because of a chain of events that began at a wedding dinner at the start of the year. As I tend to form friendships with individuals rather than in groups, friends who invite me to their weddings sometimes don't know which table to put me at. This time, I ended up with a bunch of lawyers, and eventually built up a friendship with one of them, who subsequently shifted from an offshore law firm into a bank, whose Singapore office she worked at for a while before being posted to London, where a few weeks ago she had dinner with one of the senior bankers, who was looking to hire someone with particular skills for a specific role; and she thought of me.
It's not the whole chain of events that strikes me as noteworthy, however. It's simply the fact that, without having to, this friend had thought of me. Coming from a reactive scenario in which, for example, it was only my imminent departure from the previous job that had drawn a string of counter-proposals, I learned from the receiving end how powerfully positive it can be when people do an unexpected good turn for other people. Maybe what goes around does come around after all.
So since the start of October, I've been working as a risk analyst with one of the qualifying full banks in Singapore. Given that risk can be defined as the probability of the unexpected outcome, risk analytics is the function of both effectively and efficiently shielding a bank from default by measuring the various types of risk that the financial institution is exposed to and ensuring that sufficient but not excessive protection is in place. Although risk wasn't my original destination, it was too rare and challenging an opportunity to pass up. And although I'm finding out that the deep end of the pool is very, very deep indeed, with more logit transformations and multivariate discriminant analyses than one can shake a stick at, I'm also discovering that the challenge carries with it its own exhilaration, and rediscovering that the dynamic of change, where nothing can be taken for granted, is intensely life-affirming.
With QLRS, change seems to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it's enough of a challenge having to cope with the number of submissions increasing by about 10% quarter-on-quarter. For this issue, the first in our fifth volume, our record for the number of submissions received has been broken yet again. Moreover, the quality of submissions has been increasing, to the extent that I feel certain a number of the poems edged out in this quarter's reading would have comfortably made the cut in earlier volumes. Looking over the poems I did choose, I'm struck by the happy coincidence of a certain awareness of scale across most of them, a scale that, while not quite being mythic, stretches beyond the self into the collective. Kai Chai is continuing his excellent work in Short Stories, although he's also facing the happy problem of more good short stories coming in than he can pick; this issue, he's chosen a pair from Daren Shiau that I feel are very well worth highlighting. Rui has selected an intense essay on Akira Kurosawa's Ran, and Elaine and Wei Chian have dealt admirably with a bumper crop of reviews. There are two noteworthy interviews with Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, and Prof. Edwin Thumboo, before Cyril rounds out the issue with usual theatre reviews and the Acid Tongue. What a way to close out the year!QLRS Vol. 5 No. 1 Oct 2005
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